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Joint Media Release
Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Ian Macfarlane MP
Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources

16 December 2005

Work starts on Christmas Island Tsunami monitoring system

The Australian Government today announced work on the first installation of critical tsunami monitoring instrumentation, including a new sea-level gauge and seismograph, had started on Christmas Island in the lead-up to the anniversary of the tragic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Australian Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, and Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for the Bureau of Metrology, Greg Hunt, said Bureau staff and Geoscience Australia technicians expected to have the $130,000 installation completed by the end of this month.

"The equipment upgrade is vital, due to Australia's geographic location. A tsunami could potentially reach Australia within 2 to 4 hours from the Sumatran coast," said Mr Hunt.

"Australia is bound by 8,000 kilometres of active tectonic plate boundaries capable of generating tsunamis. One third of all earthquakes occur along such boundaries, reinforcing the scientific consensus on the need for an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System" he said.

Tsunami monitoring is currently conducted jointly through the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and Emergency Management Australia and the satellite data transmission will greatly upgrade the monitoring capacity.

"The Australian Tsunami Warning System, which will monitor our coastline for severe weather, will be one of the first Indian Ocean regional warning systems," said Mr Macfarlane.

"This initiative will provide an around-the-clock tsunami monitoring and analysis capacity for Australia, which will feed into our well-established hazard warning and emergency management arrangements at the State and Federal level," he said.

The national system will work in conjunction with the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System and the existing Pacific Tsunami Warning System in Hawaii to generate tsunami warnings to the south-west Pacific Region.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System is co-ordinated from the Regional Programme Office of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Perth.

An existing sea-level gauge at Cocos Island was upgraded in March this year to receive satellite data transmission at a cost of around $15,000. The gauge was critical in detecting the approach of the 2004 tsunami.

Both the new instrumentation at Christmas Island and the Cocos Island equipment upgrade are part of the Australian Government's commitment to provide $68.9 million over four years to establish the Australian Tsunami Warning System - a national tsunami monitoring system.

Media contact:
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 02 6277 2276 or 0415 740 722
Kristy Boazman (Mr Macfarlane's office) 02 6277 7580 or 0412 171 444

Commonwealth of Australia